Introduction

A group of Far North locals have been getting up close and personal with some ‘leggy blondes’ - New Zealand dotterel - at Rarawa beach recently.

A group of Far North locals have been getting up close and personal with some ‘leggy blondes’ at Rarawa Beach recently.

These leggy visitors are none other than a group of New Zealand dotterels ‘honeymooning’ at Rarawa Beach.

'Leggy blonde' New Zealand dotterel chick.
'Leggy blonde' New Zealand dotterel
chick

Newly formed community group, ‘Friends of Rarawa Beach’, have been doing all they can to help these critically endangered shorebirds.

‘Friends of Rarawa Beach’ group member, Betsy Young has been involved in getting Rarawa Beach ready for the young avian couples.

“Preparation for the dotterels has been all go, go, go! We have planted pingao to give the ‘lovebirds’ more privacy, erected a fence to keep on-lookers at a distance, and cleared rubbish off the beach”, says Betsy.

Rarawa Beach is an important Far North breeding area for the New Zealand dotterel. They are a highly endangered species, with only around 1500 birds left in the world.

'Friends of Rarawa Beach' and students from local schools at Pukenui, Ngataki and Te Kao.
'Friends of Rarawa Beach' and students
from local schools at Pukenui, Ngataki
and Te Kao

And that’s why ‘Friends of Rarawa Beach’ are very keen to expand their work. DOC Kaitaia Community Relations Ranger, Kylie McDowell, says the group needs more volunteers to take up various roles, such as pest control, getting new dotterel signs into the area and weed control.

“By joining ‘Friends of Rarawa Beach’, you too can help the Far North dotterel family grow,” says Kylie.

Many of the dotterels are return visitors to Rarawa Beach as it’s the perfect breeding spot for these ‘beach babes’. Location seems to be everything with couples settling above the high-tide mark, close to the river mouth, with beautiful sea views.

Kylie says with Rarawa Beach being a popular summer spot for humans as well as feathered holiday makers; she is hoping we will show the dotterels some good ol’ Far North hospitality during their breeding season.

“One of the roles of a good host is to give guests privacy. If you drive on the beach, please keep below the high tide mark. Even pet dogs can be good hosts by staying away from the dotterel honeymoon area. Just the smell of man’s best friend can drive brooding couples off their nests, leaving the eggs or chicks to overheat or become chilled (depending on weather) very quickly,” says Kylie.

And keeping pests at bay is important to ensure the dotterels stay is not interrupted by ‘home invasions’.

Stoat trapper Vicky Rawnsley.
Stoat trapper Vicky Rawnsley

Vicky Rawnsley, stoat trapper extraordinaire says those currently in the group get a buzz out of keeping the dotterels safe from nasty marauders.

“Watching the dotterel chicks grow to adulthood instead of being picked off by a cat, hedgehog, stoat or rat is awesome. No special skills are needed, just a little spare time and a desire to help these precious birds”, says Vicky.

‘Friends of Rarawa Beach’ are organising an open day for anyone who would like to get involved in helping the dotterels. Learn more about our feathered friends, watch a trapping demonstration, and find out what you can do to help protect these birds.

To sign up for the open day, or for more information on how you can join ‘Friends of Rarawa Beach’ please contact Vicky Rawnsley +64 9 409 8898.

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